Nick Bertelson: It Says Something about a Man (fiction)
Southern Legitimacy Statement: Though I live in Iowa, I know a lot of men around here who inexplicably speak in a southern accent. In fact, it was a man like that who inspired the story I am submitting to you. Moreover, my wife is from Arkansas, and we visit once a year for a dose of refreshing realism.
It Says Something About a Man
See, it was his ladder that tipped me off about your daddy. Says something about a man, type of tools he uses, just like who he runs around with, know what I’m saying? Man uses a ladder like his, makes you wonder what else he scrimps on. Man uses a ladder like his gets his legs broke. He’s up there painting soffits and you think, ‘He got insurance?’ Stuff like that really says something about a man.
Damndest thing, the way he shook. Shook like a cat shitting razorblades when he got worked up. He’d get so riled couldn’t do nothing rest of the day. About as handy as a limp johnson. We’d just get to working and he’d have to quit on account of his shaking. We’d come here and plop our asses on one of these bar stools till his shakes were gone. Says something about a man if he shakes. Makes you wonder what he’s afraid of.
Tobacco too. He’d chew that Red Man my dad couldn’t even gut. Chewed it because no one else liked the stuff. Never hesitated mooching off me and my Cope, though. That’s the good stuff, you know. He’d lick it out the can with his tongue, get a big wad on the tip and stuff it in his lip. Didn’t bother a guy like me but you know it razzled some fellas. Gutted the stuff too, your daddy. Swallowed every bit of it. Never once saw him spit. Says something about a guy, what chew he chews. How he chews it.
Did the same thing with beer. Brought around that Hamms no one in their right mind drank. Then expected everyone to lend him whatever they had when he ran dry. Probably assumed everybody was too schnockered to care. Man, your old man could drink. ‘Gotta have a good liver to be a good liver.’ That was his motto. They can say what they want about your daddy, that old boy could drink, Boy. Spent lots of nights in this bar, just me and him sitting right here playing liars poker with sawbucks. Some nights we’d close the place down and get called into fight a fire. Me and your daddy, we was both on the department. We’d show up three sheets to the wind and away we’d go, off to another barn-fire out in the sticks. Teachers always told me I’d grow up to be a fire-watcher. Proved them wrong. I put the fires out. Yessir, me and your old man. That’s what we did.
I met him at firefighter training. They taught us how to dig a hole if a wildfire ever walled us in. There’s a special way to do it. Gotta lay face-down. That’s the trick. Otherwise you’re just digging your grave. Hard thing to do: dig yourself a hole to lie down in. Your dad got hung up on doing it just right. Spent half the day burying himself so he’d know how to make it through. Says something about a man. Sure does.
So when’d you say his funeral was?